“DC Pride 2022”
Writers: Devin Grayson, Stephanie Williams, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Jadzia Axelrod, Alyssa Wong, Tini Howard, Greg Lockard, Stephanie Phillips, Travis G. Moore, Danny Lore, Ivan Cohen, Brittney Williams, Kevin Conroy
Artists: Nick Robles, Meghan Hetrick, Lynne Yoshii, W. Scott Forbes, Evan Cagle, Giulio Macaione, Samantha Dodge, J. Bone
Color Artists: Triona Farrell, Marissa Louise, Tamra Bonvillain, Enrica Eren Angiolini
Letterers: Aditya Bidikar, Ariana Maher, Frank Cvetkovic, Lucas Gattoni
Review by Adam Ray
DC Pride 2022, much like last year’s special, is a grand parade of these characters, at their best, showing readers straight and queer the kinds of heroes to be proud of.
I once heard a very cynical person on the internet once say that companies ultimately do not care what we, the consumer think; they will push their product on us in a way that panders to what we want, or what we believe that we want, so that we align ourselves with them, and buy their products.
During the month of June, many companies slap rainbows on their logos to partake in this “pandering”. It’s a very good thing that inclusivity and respecting all people is the trend companies want to follow at this time of the year. However, no matter how much they say or to what extent they redecorate during Pride month, those same companies do very very little for the remaining days of the year.
DC is NOT one of those companies.
Steve J. Ray, the managing editor on this very website, once said, “No company does Pride better than DC”, and honestly, it’s hard to argue. I think that’s because DC is at the forefront of setting the tone of what stories are being told. They have a big say in what forms popular culture. By filling their titles with inclusive and queer characters at all times of the year, often to some immense backlash, they’re showing real allegiance to LGBTQ+ people across the world. DC brings queer heroes that people can actually be proud of, and ones that would have been unthinkable twenty, ten, or even five years ago.
Blessings to Devin Grayson for opening this special with the recognition that Pride was originally a riot to make society at large aware of injustices against LGBTQ+ individuals. Many people see Pride as this grand, colorful party. It wasn’t when it began.
The story talks masterfully about how well symbols can be reinterpreted. The many colors of the Pride Flag itself started as the love between cis men and have now gone on to encapsulate all manners of gender representation and sexual orientation.
The color choices, specifically in the story of letting Superman be a beacon of Pride are incredibly bold. Superman has always been a figure of staunch Americana. Now, with that grand ‘S’ on a colorful backdrop, the symbol of Hope and Peace can include hope and peace for all people.
Anyone who didn’t assume that Themyscira wasn’t some kind of sapphic wonderland needs to return all their Wonder Woman-related possessions immediately.
A look at the history of characters like Nubia and Big Barda takes us to the many shades of girl love out there. In an environment like classic 1980s wrestling, there’s just as much opportunity for unique exploits.
The art and color combinations in this tale are astounding but for a reason. There’s something modern and detailed in the environments and backgrounds of the lounge in Themyscira when contrasted with the muted colors and wonderfully recreated smudge of the 80’s flashback, to mirror an 80’s comic. By making the retelling feel this close to the material, we get a special, technical story.
Think of Me
Throughout this review, I’ve been using LGBTQ+ as a term, as it’s the one that most people are aware of. As an initialism, it grossly underplays how many orientations and gender representations there are. The ‘A’, a late addition to the name is by no means more or less valid.
This issue is both a classic superhero narrative of beating the villain at their own game, as well as Connor Hawke’s coming out to his mother as asexual. It’s a difficult balance to naturally talk about a person’s orientation in the context of beating up a ginger man who can sing to mind control people. Stein and Brandt chose to conflate the struggle of the battle with the emotional struggle of opening up about your feelings. This perfectly brings the two conflicts together into one very well-told story.
Up at Bat
“I’m a trans woman in Gotham, of course, I have a weapon”. It’s sad that this is a necessity in our real towns and cities. I’m not sure putting the trans flag on said weapon puts out a great message though.
We’re used to our heroes being resolute, but the Bat family is largely human, and we see them bleed and suffer often. Having a new hero offering assistance to Batgirl, then saving the day, is a masterful way to introduce them to a new audience.
A World Kept Just for Me
Characters from Atlantis are usually split between two worlds. Man and Atlantean, surface and ocean. These tensions make them interesting. Jackson Hyde’s Aquaman also has the same tension from his history as the child of Black Manta, which is multiplied by the example of his not being accepted when he was growing up for being openly gay. This tension will always make characters like these rich and interesting sources for a story.
The shading and color choices show this throughout. The welcoming and soft blues, with the haze that makes it feel like we’re underwater, show the loving tolerance of Ha’wea’s family. This is the opposite of the harsh desert orange of New Mexico where Jackson grew up. To be queer means being aware of that tension, and hoping you land in an accepting space.
The Gumshoe in Green
How has one story conflated some of my very favorite things? Green Lanterns, Noir 1930s style detectives, and smashing the horny bisexual trope? Only in DC Pride can we get perfect storms like these.
The noir theme was maintained by some of the most ambitious coloring work I’ve ever seen. The whole tale was kept largely in shades of grey. I may extend that to show that there are no clear definites with either people or places, and we all exist in a spectrum. The pops of color come only from green; the lantern ring and the noodles, plus a few other things. Sometimes that isolation, to feel like you’re the only one in a drab world is very relatable, and it takes seeing an old flame, the only other person in color to lift your spirits.
Public Display of Electromagnetism
Being gay does not necessarily mean being out. To be publicly attached to another person, or to have others aware of your gender alignment or orientation is a personal and brave thing to do. It took Ray, a character very new to me to go through some real danger to admit to himself and the rest of the team that he was attached.
Again, we can count on DC Pride 2022 to be one of the brightest titles in DC history. The dark inky powers of Shadow Thief, sucking color from the pages into the bright explosions Ray brings, light up both the story itself and then the character’s spirits. It really mirrors the turmoil he was going through.
Bat’s in the Cradle
A story doesn’t need rich unpacking of themes or wildly ambitious art choices for it to be a good one that sheds a light on the unfair practices the US military has against LGBT individuals.
This story recounts Batwoman’s personal history within the armed forces, and her staunch determination to help others even though they did not help her. These actions despite this make her truly heroic. It’s this kind of figure that can inspire others, to choose to do the right thing, despite how queer people have been mistreated, to hopefully inspire those unjust few to be better is incredibly inspirational.
Probably my biggest takeaway from this story was the one “extras” pansexual pride Wonder Woman t-shirt. I would wear that.
I think a particularly good Pride story should just be a simple, heartfelt love story. This deeply and truly was that. The tale centers on Tim Drake’s Robin, a character many forget is bisexual because of the wildly intolerant fan base that exploded at the news of the new Superman’s coming out. with any truly impactful love story, it shouldn’t matter the orientation or presentation of the characters. Change either of them to a woman, and do things change? Not really. That’s why we need more romantic stories like this.
The romance between these queer characters is as memorable and iconic as the characters themselves. Since Harley Quinn’s earliest appearances, the possibility of her being in a romantic relationship with Poison Ivy has been a toyed with idea, to the delight of all manner of comics fans. This story exemplifies this relationship. They are at their usual antics and showing their understanding and love for each other effortlessly as they walk through the many tribulations that could distract them.
The washed out, pastel color palate in this story is so beautiful. It has the same Sapphic colour tones we’d associate with this iconic couple anyway, so the choice was a masterful one.
Are You Ready for This?
Pride brings out conflict and a unique set of moments for characters on all worlds.
The bright and vibrant pop art of this story leaves us all with a sense of hope and fun, as the odds are stacked up against queer hero Kid Quick. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops, going into Multiversity Teen Justice.
The disclaimer before “Finding Batman” was incredibly needed, not only as a content warning, but also to remind us that this story is full of positive pride stories, but many queer stories are tough.
The recount of Kevin Conroy’s life is triumphant, and required a great deal of bravery. There are very few other places or opportunities for a story like his to be told with such simplicity and directness. Conroy’s voice is raw and direct; factually telling us about times loaded with memory.
The artistic choices are a raw haze. like an independent biopic comic, but one that mirrors the haze of memory. The choice of white detail on a final black panel mirrors the choices of animation on the character that defined Conroy’s career and that brought this revelation of a story to us here today.
This collection is held together and given true power by the strength of “Finding Batman”. We’ve had the whole special to bring us heroes in action, and there’s a wonderful spread of all orientations and gender representations here. We’ve had the heroes made this way, but the life and actions of one man, rising through adversity, and becoming as much of a superhero to the fans as the character he voiced is the kind of Pride story that gives us a real world inspiration.
Once again DC has presented us with a rounded and exquisite presentation of the kinds of people on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. DC Pride 2022 truly offers many heroes we can all be proud of… and they’re always around, not just for Pride month.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment